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  • Helen English Artist

Distracted and abstracted

And so onto a more detailed look at abstract art. I want to write this with a caveat. There are arguments within the art world about how to classify various forms of art. This can happen within art movements and also genres. For instance, some work which is classified Impressionistic could be argued as Expressionistic – is it a study of light and the fleeting rendition of a scene, or is it a comment on the feelings of the people it depicts? There are those who classify non-objective art as a subsection of abstract art, and that is also okay. This article is my opinion and reasons why I hold them. I also want to look at a couple of art movements which are classified as abstract are quite different to each other. Art being art, you can legitimately reach your own conclusion and that’s okay. After all, art is in the eye of the beholder!


So, my reasoning on what abstract art is lies in it’s name. It is an abstraction of reality. That is, it is reality which has been altered. Rather than representing a physical form directly, this genre uses shape, colour and texture to create the idea. This can be interpreted as a range of things.

The first abstract artists were the Post-Impressionists. They took the Impressionists’ often texturized painting application, which had started a revolution in art, and began to focus on the surface itself. They were interested in the aesthetics of the paint and of creating symbolic meaning in their work. Vincent Van Gogh is a really good example of this genre of art, as is Edvard Munch, the creator of The Scream (1893). We can clearly see what their subject matter was but they were not attempting to represent the scenes they painted as what they had actually seen. Instead, it was about how they had felt.



The Cubists are another really good example of abstract artists. Paul Cezanne (1839-1906) was a Post-Impressionist whose work inspired this movement. His work, Bibemus Quarry (1895) (pictured), is a great example of what was to develop in Cubism. They took the physical objects or people and changed the way they communicated their presence, fragmenting the image into rectangular, triangular or other pools of texture and colour. Some images are recognisable as the original object/person and others are so distorted only the title will allow you to decipher the contents. The artist’s intent is to play with the way that the form is displayed. Picasso is probably the most famous Cubist. He actually created and transitioned through a number of art movements during his lifetime but his cubist paintings, such as Les Demoiselles D’Avignon (1907) and Girl Before a Mirror (1932). His treatment of subject matter during this time, presenting it from interesting angles and playing with colour and texture was clearly abstract because, again, you can decipher much of his subject matter but the paintings he made were comments about the visual, and potentially emotional, aspects of the subject matter rather than a physically accurate representation.


I should mention here that I have not represented the painting images of some painters mentioned because the copyright may not allow me to. You can copy and paste the painting titles into Google though to have a look yourself. The more you look at painters and what they were trying to achieve, the more interesting the history of art becomes and it really can inspire thoughts of what you can do and what you are communicating with your own work.

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